The navy divers jumped into the water, swimming fast into different directions where survivors barely managed to stay afloat. Scouring the depths, frogmen searched for others who slowly sank deeper, unconsciousness overpowering them.
The commander directed the operation methodically, his main objective was to haul aboard all the passengers of the ill-fated boat and transport them to the port.
Shaking his head repeatedly while watching the boat’s scattered remnants floating across a wide area in the angry sea, he tried to imagine the terror they all went through. He had experienced worse calamities before but this incident could be considered one of his worst in memory.
It was a senseless tragedy, innocent souls against the wrath of Nature. They had no chance but their own twists of fate, miraculously saved by unseen forces they relied upon in their hour of need.
The rescue arrived in the nick of time, when survivors began to lose strength and their will to live.
As of recent count, five had superficial wounds in different parts of the body including long scratches incurred during the rough and tumble period. Fifteen suffered broken legs and forearms, some of them with dislocated shoulders and strained necks.
Unfortunately, three were confirmed dead: the operator and two teachers who all sacrificed their lives so that the others might live.
One was missing.
“Have you notified the families?” he asked the civilian liaison officer who interviewed one of the five minimally injured. “We’re staying for two more hours or when darkness prevents us from searching for the missing student.”
“I informed the Mayor, sir,” she replied. “He has created a task force to handle the situation. Before we left the port, several ambulances are already on standby.”
Walking with much difficulty, a student in wet clothes, wrapped with a blanket he used to warm himself up, approached the two. His anxiety was drawn all over his tired face.
“Please, officer. We should not leave unless you find my classmate. He was the reason we are still alive.”
“What’s your classmate’s name?”
“Harry, sir. That’s Tom, lying on the cot, who was probably the last person Harry was with.”
The commander motioned the liaison to follow him. Perhaps, they could get some information to quicken their search.
“You’re Tom. right?”
“Yes, sir. Have you seen my friend Harry? I thought I saw him a minute ago.”
The harrowing experience could have induced hallucinations in the victims’ minds. They were in no condition to answer questions about the incident; their brains might have blocked painful memories to withstand feelings of guilt, that they survived while others did not.
“Rest assured, we’ll find him,” the commander smiled, masking the sadness he felt. “In an hour or so we will send you to the hospital to get proper medical attention.”
“He’s here somewhere,” Tom insisted, trying to raise his body up but could not: one of his legs was broken. “I want to see him, please.”
“My liaison officer will look for him,” the commander signaled her to go, the pretense necessary.
“Harry will know what to do, sir. He will save us all.”
The commander feared Tom’s trauma was shared by most of the survivors. Even the classmate who informed him earlier went his way to look for their classmae, believing Tom’s claim right away, dismissing the reality of Harry’s disappearance.
“We will find him, trust me, we will,” the commander promised, clasping Tom’s hands tightly.
(to be continued)